Montaña barracks, Madrid
It is one of the most iconic photographs of the Civil War. Numerous bodies, soldiers and civilians alike, lie on the ground, the side they were on undecipherable, the casualties of the battle for the Montaña barracks in Madrid.
In July 1936, more soldiers and police were based in Madrid than anywhere else in Spain, but the rebels failed to win the support of most of the garrison or the police, most of whose commanders remained loyal to the government. In addition, the uprising there was badly organized because its leaders were not on active duty. As a result, when news of the revolt in Morocco reached the capital, no one knew what to do. Mola had advised his co-conspirators in Madrid to withdraw their troops to the mountains north of the city and await the arrival of his forces but only one regiment did so. The rest made the mistake of declaring themselves in revolt and withdrawing to their barracks.
On July 19, when General José Fanjul and 500 Falangists and other right wingers joined the 2,000 troops already there, the Montaña barracks became the main rebel stronghold in the capital. They were almost immediately surrounded by the police and some 6,000 militia who had received weapons only a few hours before. Behind them was a large and anxious crowd of men and women who wanted to get their hands on the 60,000 rifle bolts stored in the barracks. Without them, the guns the government had distributed were useless.
Shots were exchanged between the two sides during the afternoon and night of the 19th, and the few available pieces of artillery were fired at the barracks. By the morning of July 20, it was clear that no help was coming for those trapped inside and government planes began to drop bombs on them. Morale plummeted, especially among the soldiers who were doing their obligatory military service. Someone put a white flag out a window, but when the crowd moved forward in anticipation of a surrender, it was raked by machine gun fire. This series of events happened twice again. Then, just before noon, the Civil Guard succeeded in entering the barracks. They were followed by an enraged crowd that exacted a brutal revenge. Hundreds of people in the barracks were lynched. Only a handful of officers survived, although most would later be killed in the following months.
A few days later, not only were there no more rebel forces in Madrid, but militias and police forces were marching from the city to the mountain passes to the north. There they would attempt to stop the columns of soldiers, Carlists and Falangists that Mola had sent from the north to capture the capital.